Anneke Oskam took two days off high school last year before she returned as a boy named Cory.
During those two days, the vice principal at Britannia and Maria Foster, the school board’s anti-homophobia and diversity mentor, met with the Oskam’s Grade 9 peers to explain that upon his return, Cory would use the boys washroom and change rooms and was to be addressed with male pronouns.
Oskam gave a presentation about supporting transgendered youth at a Dare To Stand Out conference at Gladstone secondary Monday. “It was actually one of the first presentations that was full,” Oskam said.
He said 30 students, including transgendered and gender non-conforming youth and supporters attended, along with a parent and a principal. “I embrace the thought of helping others and educating people so that younger people and other people who are going to transition later don’t have to answer those questions.”
Oskam first played girls hockey outside of school and then switched to boys hockey. He had to get a ruling from Hockey Canada to allow him to use the boys’ dressing room. He has continued to play hockey in the Britannia Hockey Academy. Oskam said the bullying he faced wasn’t bad. “In kindergarten, I didn’t fit in at all,” he said. “When I would play sports with the guys in Grades 4, 5, even 6, it would be like, you’re a girl and you can’t play, but then they realized I was actually good.”
Oskam’s family had school officials educate his classmates when he started taking testosterone. His mother Nicole Seguin said her child defied gender expectations from an early age. “Even with toilet training, like age two-and-a-half, when she went to the store to pick big-girl underwear, [she] picked boys underwear, wanted Superman, Batman underwear,” she said.
Seguin noted a child can be distressed by developing the characteristics of a gender with which they don’t identify. She urged parents with gender-confused children to get their kids on medication that blocks the onset of puberty to give them time to receive therapy and support to make a decision. “So then they don’t need surgery later if they decide to transition,” she said. “Blockers are reversible and everything goes back to status quo.”
Seguin encouraged parents to avoid trying to fit their kids into a box. “They’re going to be who they are,” she said.
Oskam’s presentation was part of the Dare to Stand Out conferences organized by the non-profit Jer’s Vision, which was founded by Ontario student Jeremy Dias. He faced extreme discrimination in high school after he came out. At age 17, Dias began a legal case against his school and school board. At 21, he won Canada’s second largest human rights settlement.